Three new movies to watch at home during coronavirus crisis

Remember the name. #ArtemisFowl is streaming exclusively June 12 on #DisneyPlus.

Unlike every other studio, Disney was in the unique and fortuitous position when the pandemic hit of having its own subscription streaming platform in place, Disney+, which launched with much fanfare in November and instantly became a heavy hitter in the streaming wars. Having already rushed the Pixar film “Onward” onto the service after its theatrical run was curtailed by the shutdown, Disney announced this month that it would shift the planned May 29 theatrical release of the fantasy family film “Artemis Fowl,” based on author Eoin Colfer’s bestselling YA series about a young criminal mastermind, to an exclusive digital release on Disney+.

The story of a 12-year-old genius on a desperate search for his kidnapped father who must infiltrate an ancient, underground world of fairies, the film should find an eager audience in quarantined families, says Disney+ President of Content and Marketing Ricky Strauss.

“ ‘Artemis Fowl’ is the type of epic adventure film we know audiences look forward to every summer,” Strauss told The Times. “With most people around the world likely to still be at home and excited for new content, we are happy to be able to bring this movie to Disney+ at a time when it’s needed most.”


Nonso Anozie is Butler, left, Lara McDonnell is Holly Short, Josh Gad is Mulch Diggums and Ferdia Shaw is Artemis Fowl in Disney’s “Artemis Fowl.”

(Nicola Dove / Disney)

Though he clearly made the film for the big screen and a release direct to streaming could be viewed as a demotion, director Kenneth Branagh says he fully supports Disney’s decision. “They were really looking for a family event that could be part of keeping up that sense of excitement in dark times, and it seemed like a natural place for it to go to,” he told The Times. “While it would be dishonest to say anything was particularly planned at a time like this, I personally was very happy that the decision was made.”

Indeed, with big tentpole titles absent from theaters, Disney plans a significant push for “Artemis Fowl,” which gives its nascent streaming service a ready-made piece of theatrical-quality content. In an interview with Barron’s this month Disney Executive Chairman Bob Iger speculated “There may be a few more [movies] that we end up putting directly onto Disney+,” but no titles have been announced.

Branagh hopes that his film has an added emotional resonance for audiences during these trying times. “There is a sense of fun and resilience about Artemis,” he said. “Although it’s a piece of fiction, the story has people go through a sort of catastrophic endangerment of the very way that they live and learn to have that very rare thing: grace under pressure.”

Having made such big-screen hits as “Thor,” “Cinderella” and “Murder on the Orient Express,” Branagh fervently believes in the theatrical experience and is hoping audiences can return to cineplexes as soon as it is safely possible. Indeed, he is in post-production on an adaptation of Agatha’s Christie’s “Death of the Nile,” which Disney’s 20th Century Studios has slated to open in October, and also co-stars in Christopher Nolan’s much-anticipated sci-fi thriller “Tenet,” which Warner Bros. has scheduled to hit theaters on July 17.

But at the same time, Branagh sees an undeniable upside as studios look for ways to not only keep the movie business alive but give audiences something to take their minds off the daily drumbeat of dire news.

“I most fervently hope and pray that [theatrical business] returns,” Branagh said. “But meantime, there are also very striking experiences that we’re having as we’re exposed to storytelling in all sorts of different ways in our living rooms — in our lockdown worlds — that are also profoundly important to us.”

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